12 Witnesses

Let these stones be a witness to what we have done here this day.

Listening for the whisper

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A few weeks ago, following a sermon series through the book of James, I preached a sermon called “Elijah, a Man with a nature like ours” as a clarification of James’ claim that we all come from the same stuff and that God might use any of us like He used Elijah, if we were willing. The text was 1 Kings 19:9-18. If that doesn’t ring a bell, and you don’t desire to follow the link and read the Scripture, it is the story of Elijah in the cave, after the showdown with the prophets of Baal.  God told Elijah to go to the mouth of the cave, where Elijah expects to hear from the Lord.  At the mouth of the cave, there is a fierce wind, an earthquake, and a fire, but God did not speak to Elijah in any of those things. Finally, there was a still, small voice and God was in the voice.  Elijah recognized God’s presence, pulled his mantle over his head in a sign of reverence and listened.

Like us, Elijah’s problem, the one God was addressing with this parade of big, empty things, was that he was prone to take off and do something before listening to God.  In the scene before Elijah journeys to the cave, He is seen calling down fire from heaven and calling Israel to the Lord.  The people respond, reject and kill the prophets of Baal and turn to the God they had only heard did great things like this.  The main difference in the journey toward the showdown and the journey to the cave is that God had sent Elijah to former, but Elijah took the latter on himself.

Imagine a life of constant communion with God, but where God only speaks through enormous actions.  Your average day would be fraught with near misses and calamities on every side.  That’s not what God desires and the scene at the mouth of the cave was a teaching moment to Elijah.  Remember, the first words from God in Verse 10? “What are you doing here, Elijah?”  As in, who told you to do this?  Not me… Must’ve been you.

Here are 5 things that can help us to live lives that are increasingly attentive to the still, small voice.  Lives that are more powerfully used by God.

1.  Stop inundating ourselves with meaningless media.  God has to use big things to cut through the blare of white noise that are our lives.  Technology is not evil. Media is not evil.  Giving massive amounts of our time and attention to both train us to listen carefully to them, ignoring more important things, like the Holy Spirit.

2. Spend earnest time tending to our hearts.  Spiritual Disciplines, Prayer, Scripture Memory, Bible Study, and honest Introspection are necessary to the heart of the growing believer.  We don’t have to prove anything to God.  This is not a burden to carry.  If we want the joy of a deeply personal walk in connection with the Holy Spirit, though, we will pursue God.

3. Be obedient. If God speaks, don’t say no.  Why is God going to continue to speak to a heart that is periodically being hardened?  He is not going to reinforce bad behavior. If we have a point of known disobedience, we must immediately go back and make it right.  If He says go, we must go.

4. Crucify the flesh.  We are constantly tempted away from a life of obedience to God.  Victory is not dependent on us, but on Christ. Nevertheless, our acceptance of Grace is participation in the Crucifixion of the flesh and is formed in obedient cooperation when the Spirit points out what must be pruned.  “The fruit of the Spirit is Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faith, Gentleness, Self Control.  Against such things there is no law.  Now the one who belongs to Christ has crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we walk by the Spirit, we must follow the Spirit.  We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Galatians 5:22-24.

5. Meditate.  Spend time being still and quiet.  Our world works against this at every turn.  If cutting down on media is the first step, this is the last.  This would be other side of the coin, so to speak.  I’ve learned how to do this a bit in the last year.  It is a powerful thing to still your thoughts and simply focus them on God.

The Bumpy Road

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Interestingly, my wife said that she got something from my sermon on Sunday that I wasn’t trying to communicate.  I said “interestingly,” but perhaps I should have used the word “ironically.” Except that I’m sure such a thing happens all the time.

While speaking on the first Sunday of Advent, I was expounding on Joseph. How he was described as a righteous man. Was unwilling to humiliate Mary publicly when he thought her pregnant by another man.  The phrase that spun my better half in another direction was, “God chose wisely when He entrusted the watchcare of His Son to such a man.”

Bonnie, struck by the difficulty of Joseph’s situation, realized that he was in that situation because he was trustworthy.  And in that moment she was grateful for the bangs, crashes, jolts and thuds we’ve faced, realizing that God has considered us faithful enough to be assigned the bumpy road.

For this to occur, we must trust that God knows what He is doing.  Easier said than done, for most of us.

Until I Die…

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While preaching last Sunday I found myself in a moment of exuberance and great love for my church. Arriving at the moment with great passion, I spouted out the statement, “The Lord willing, I intend to pastor here until I die.”

I was intending to show my affection and commitment to Skelly Drive.

Later that day a church member told me I shouldn’t say that anymore because it wasn’t safe.

“Not safe?” I inquired.

Turns out she was afraid the statement might motivate someone to hire a hit man. ;)

Mark Driscoll on Joel Osteen

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Yep, it’s pretty blunt, but not mean spirited.

Parables in Preaching

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Jesus didn’t always use parables, but much of His communication concerning the Kingdom was done through story telling.  “The Kingdom of God is like…”

If you are a preacher, do you use parables when you preach?  Are you a story teller?

If you aren’t a preacher, do you like it when the sermon includes stories?  Do they help you understand the point?

Special Emphasis Sermons

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The holidays are here and that means plenty of opportunities to focus the topics of your sermons on things seasonal.  Do you?

I avoid sermons based on holidays like the plague – no Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, 4th of July, etc.  I just think that you can only say so much in a sermon aimed at a holiday before you begin to repeat yourself the next year or two.  Then you have to fight to be original.

The exception?  For me, Easter and Christmas.  In fact, I do Advent.  Four sermons targeted at the coming of Christ and what it reveals about God and it starts next week, the 30th of November.

Am I schizophrenic, or is there a method to the madness?

What about you?

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